Having a baby. That’s it, that’s the sentence… err phrase. And especially if you’re a first time dad, it’s one heck of a phrase. Fear not, these tips for first time and new dads are going to have you heading toward pro dad land in no time.
While we would like to leave it at that, there is a lot more to it than ‘having a baby’. Many parents find themselves in analysis paralysis when they start getting into the details of preparing for a baby. We’re here to just give a list of new dad tips as an intro to the kind of research you might find yourself doing as you prepare for your baby.
One thing we want to let you know right off the bat is that every baby is unique and different in their own way. There is no definitive guide on how to be a dad, because everyone gets to shape what being a dad looks like for themselves. The point of this list of tips is to serve as an example of what has worked for some of us in the past. Don’t sweat checking everything off everything on this list religiously– just take the things you like and leave the rest!
Let’s ease into this list of new dad tips with a video that covers 8 great ones. Then, keep reading for a whole bunch more.
1. Do your research early!
If you are reading this list of tips for expectant dads, you are off to a good start. If you are an expecting father, there are a lot of great resources out there for you to prepare yourself for taking care of your baby We compiled a list of the best blogs for new parents to get you started.. We have posts on posts about baby information, gear reviews, baby care guides, checklists, and more here on this website (hi, we’re Fathercraft).
If clicking through links isn’t your jam, then that makes two of us. That’s why we made Father’s Ed, so you wouldn’t have to bookmark a million pages to get all-encompassing information on baby care. It’s an in-depth course on how to take care of your baby backed with research from the pros, tested by real dads (and moms), and filled with helpful resources.
2. Get through the first trimester, read up on pregnancy.
This is a very delicate time in the pregnancy. It’s best to hold off on posting on social media about the news for now, and instead focus on setting up your first appointments with an OB GYN clinic or reviewing the health and safety guidelines for pregnancy (Mayo Clinic). If you’d like to go deep, we published this week by week guide to pregnancy for dads.
This is a great time to start gathering information and doing preliminary research on a few things. No need to go crazy just yet, but creating a basic plan is fairly low-stress and will help you in the long run.
3. Where to spend the money
You will be greeted with a ton of price tags when doing your preliminary search for baby preparation. Babies are expensive and worth every penny if you are spending money on the right stuff. The main things that you should invest in are: cleaning/diapering your baby, safe sleep options, feeding, and moving your baby. You can check out our essentials here.
4. Be there for your partner
As an expecting father, if your partner is pregnant, it can be easy to feel like there’s not much you can to to be a part of this whole baby thing yet. Pause. Think. The first step is getting through the first trimester. You will learn a lot about each other throughout this process, and it may end up changing your relationship. It is okay and common for dynamics to change, but it is also important to stay in tune with one another as you go through these changes.
Remember during this time, your partner is going through a lot (this is true even if your partner isn’t the one who’s pregnant, by the way—couples who are adopting or using a surrogate should think about this too. So, be there for her. Go above and beyond. Give a foot rub. Surprise her with something nice.
You better get every wink of sleep you can now, because your nights aren’t gonna get easier when the new baby arrives.
Sleep is without a doubt one of the most important things you can master as an expecting parent. There are ways to find healthy sleeping schedules for your baby, and we actually have a course right here on our website: Baby Sleep School.
It is reasonable to expect nights with little to no sleep— it happens! Don’t let yourself fall into unending sleeplessness, for everyone’s sake, not just yours. Read up on how to get a good schedule for your baby and it will pay back in dividends.
6. Build Dad joke repertoire
Dad jokes come naturally for some, but not for others. Nobody is going to know if you are browsing a dad joke subreddit at midnight. Don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone.
7. Discuss feeding options with your partner
Breastfeeding isn’t a given for everyone. If you are adopting or don’t have access to breastmilk, then formula is going to be the option for you. Even if breastfeeding is an option, it’s something you should discuss with your partner, not assume.
Even if breastfeeding is the option you and your partner have chosen, there are times when it can become difficult to keep supply and demand even. Baby formula can be a life saver and there is no reason to feel any guilt or shame in feeding your baby formula. We have a full in-depth review on a baby formula that knocked our socks off: Bobbie Baby Formula. If you’re looking for more on breastfeeding, the CDC has a nice list of FAQs here (yeah, it might be hard to remember, they do other things than deal with pandemics), and the blog Milk Drunk provides interesting viewpoints from many types of parents.
8. Prepare for cleaning your baby
Keeping your baby clean is keeping your baby healthy. Diapers, boogie wipes, snot suckers, and bottom wash are all things that we have tested. A lot. You can take a look at the products that we like the most on our essential list.
9. Prepare for moving your baby
You will have to take your baby on the move. It will be scary at first (looking at you, drive home from the hospital). Moving precious cargo is a great investment, and it will serve you well to get acquainted with the gear early on. We have a few recommendations of our own if you want to check them out here: Baby Essential List.
10. Things to not worry about
We have a definitive list of things that you should not buy. A crib bumper (see the American Academy of Pediatrics), a stuffed animal for sleepy time (we know, we know—buy one, just keep it on a shelf for now), a blanket, anything that promotes co-sleeping, a copious amount of toys, and baby-proofing stuff.
We’ve compiled some extensive research on safe sleeping habits here, and part of that is keeping the crib free of anything that can cover your baby. As far as toys and baby-proofing stuff, you won’t need that for quite some time. Infants typically don’t crawl or play with toys. Most of the time they will be happy being held or propped up and looking at faces!
11. Power through the second trimester
You made it to the second trimester, hooray! Now is the time most couples start telling people about their baby because the risk factor is lower now. It is a good idea to start getting more in-depth with your research into finding things like daycare and pediatricians—these things will take longer than you think, so they’re not good candidates for procrastination.
12. Start healthy habits
Habits take time to build, and you being healthy as a new dad can be very important for your baby. The healthier you are, the more energy you will have to devote to your baby. You don’t need to go vegan and start exercising with a fitness group three days a week at 5am. That’s madness. Do little things that make you feel good. Look after yourself and your partner, because little things will one day pass down to your kids. Healthy kids are happy kids.
13. Share responsibilities and divvy things up
Being a great dad starts way before the kid is born. If your partner is pregnant, then it’s probably setting in that there is a literal human being grown in front of your eyes. Give your partner some slack, and help her out with things. Coparenting is a powerful tool and a great example of the creating something greater than the sum of the separate effects. It’s, like, synergy or something guys.
Divvying up tasks can help you feel more included and get you on the right track for coparenting while you wait for the big day.
14. Read what your partner sends & consider an online parenting class
Your partner is likely staying up late reading material about how to parent as well. If they send you stuff, read it! Being on the same page when it comes to preparation is a great idea. Don’t be afraid to send them stuff to read too! And, while reading is great, consider an online parenting class—courses that use video can be a great way to learn skills, knowledge, figure out gear, and more.
15. Go to doctor’s appointments with your partner
There might be scheduling conflicts sometimes, but trying to make it to doctor’s appointments leading up to birth is a great way to show support for your partner. You will also learn a lot about the process from going to the appointments and will be more prepared because of it. The OB’s office is an amazing resource to ask questions and get info from, so don’t be shy.
16. Pause. Halfway through the list, you got this.
Take a minute for yourself. It is too easy to get overwhelmed when preparing for your baby, so stay in tune with yourself and make sure you reach out if you need support. If you don’t know where to turn, hit us up in comments on our socials: Instagram and Youtube, or check out our new online community for dads.
17. Talk and sing to your baby
“My baby isn’t born yet though.” Yeah, we know. Singing and talking to your baby while it is still in the womb can still be very powerful. There is research showing that it can lead to a happier baby, but we believe it can lead to a happier YOU too! It’s about taking time out of your day to be with your baby from the beginning, and strengthening that bond. To make things easier, for now you get to read (or sing) what you and your partner want to. So keep on doing you with those soapy romance novels that are your go-to.
Guess what? If you are adopting, then you will still have a strong bond with a happy child. We promise. Spending time doing research, reading, and preparing for your baby can accomplish the same thing.
18. Practice the ‘snack mix shuffle’
You know that thing dads do when they have peanuts, or like chex mix, in their hand and they shuffle it back and forth? Yeah do that now cause apparently all dads do that for some reason.
19. Read up on your picture/video taking skills
You will no doubt take a million pictures of your baby. Take videos too—you’ll be shocked how fast the years go by, and how hard it is to remember what your 3-year-old was like at 18 months—you will not regret having a stocked video library! It is also important to live in the moment and put the devices down every once and a while to soak up the experience as much as you can. Now’s a great time to learn the power-user features on your phone or camera … upping your picture and video game will lead to priceless memories captured forever.
That being said, turn that iPhone sideways if you are going to take a video. It’s just etiquette.
20. Take a babymoon
A what?? Take a trip for you and your partner before you have your baby. Soon, it will be all baby all the time, which is totally something to look forward to, and you deserve to have one last partners-only trip for a little while where you get to spend some QT as a couple. If you can’t, don’t fret, grandparents and babysitters will be there in the future, but the first little bit with your newborn is when you should be home.
21. Select a pediatrician
You should decided what type of doctor you want first of all (MD, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant), and then utilize resources like your primary care doctor or Google to see who is highly rated in your area. Check for board certification (FAAP, AAP, or ABP), insurance options, proximity to your home, office hours, whether they are accepting new patients, and see if you can interview them.
We have a lot of info on selecting a pediatrician in our Father’s Ed course.
22. Organize your living space
Having a baby at the very least means changing your sleeping habits (aka less sleep). When you have less sleep, things around you become more difficult, so having an organized living space can ease daily tasks. If you are organized, then you will avoid mid-day tantrums when you are looking for that damn monitor unit or favorite home-teamipillow that you swore you just placed on the coffee table a minute ago (though let’s be honest your wife probably hid the pillow).
Organization requires building good habits, and good habits start early.
23. Acquire useless knowledge
One of the beauties of being a dad is using acquired useless trivia from your life at any given moment to befuddle your child one day. The “how do you even know that”‘s are totally worth it.
24. Wait out the third trimester.
Things are starting to get real now. You are more than two-thirds through the pregnancy stage and the due date is approaching rapidly. Now is a great time to start hammering out the little details and printing out checklists for when the baby is born. Do ‘future you’ a favor and put in the hard work now.
25. Discuss the boring, but important, admin details
Things like health insurance, life insurance, wills, employer benefits, and certificates are all things that are worth paying attention to. Discussing what you are going to do for each of these items with your partner might be a drag, but doing so can save a lot of hassle down the line. You don’t want to assume anything with insurance companies, it’s just not a good practice.
Figure out what your plan will look like once you add a baby onto it, then you can adjust other pieces of your financial pie accordingly. Planning and staying on top of things is draining, but by planning and discussing, it will make it easier. The hardest part is starting. Again, our pre-birth checklist has some good conversation starters to help ensure you’re on the same page with your partner.
26. What parent do you want to be?
Our advice for new dads is to have a conversation with yourself about this. Reflect on your own childhood. What do you want to do that you think your parents did a good job of? What things are you going to change? Being an awesome dad is something you have control over, so will you choose to take up that role? Take this seriously, but not so seriously you freak yourself out. Remember, if you’re the kind of guy that’s reading this blog post, it means you care. That’s a huge head start.
27. Hospital baby bag
Things like phone chargers, clothes for you, clothes for your baby, reading material, caffeine (hospital coffee sucks), snacks, camera, a list of names, and a comfortable pillow are all great things to bring to the hospital. Whatever you can do to make your trip to the hospital as smooth as possible.
28. Have checklists handy
Got checklists? We do! Take a gander at these — we’ve got one on prepping your nursery (with a big surprise in it about where your baby should be sleeping), a comprehensive pre-birth readiness checklist, and one essential gear for newborns and babies. We really like checklists. You will too when you start trying to keep track of everything you need to do to prep just in your head. Do yourself a favor, son: Fathercraft Checklists.
29. Your baby is born! Now go home!
Congrats! Now get out of that hospital and go home to your baby-ready household. Remember, don’t sweat the rubber pads on everything at this point. Your baby won’t be on the move for quite some time.
We’re talking about making sure your house has smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, and a safe sleeping environment for your baby. A safe sleeping environment for your infant should be in the room you sleep in (but NOT the same bed) for at least the first 6 months. Check out why from American Academy of Pediatrics.
30. Learn the cues, remember baby talk is manly (and sexy, too)
You can continue talking and singing to your baby to build that relationship with them, but you will notice that in a couple months’ time they start talking back. Their way of talking is obviously gonna be different than what you’re used to. It’s ok to be confused at first, we all are. Learning your baby’s cues is something that will come with spending time with your baby. You will have a PHD in your own baby’s language by the time they are babbling in English, just give it some time.
One more thing: bring on the baby talk voice! You might find this comes a whole lot more naturally than you expect (both of Fathercraft’s co-founders did). You might feel like it’s awkward at first. Fear not, you’ll be a baby talk pro in no time. Don’t be afraid to get goofy. Here’s a secret: your wife, husband, or partner will probably find it sexy as hell to see you gettin’ all goofy with your little one—it means you’re an awesome caregiver.
31. Be there
When babies are first born, they don’t do too much. That’s ok, though, because you can still do things to be present with your baby. Talking, singing, and reading are all things that will enrich the baby’s life, plus it can help strengthen your bond. Look, you’re going to have moments when you hop on your phone to check the score of the game or the latest Slack alert from work. Don’t beat yourself up about it. But remember what we said—even when the days (and nights) are dragging, years will slip by in a moment—so hang with your baby, toddler, little kid, big kid, teenager …
32. Learn to brag
By this point, you’re off to an awesome start, so I think you’re about ready to transition into the obnoxious social-media parent that brags about how awesome their child is. Or not. Maybe for you it’s your family’s text message thread, sending your partner a cute selfie of you and the baby while she or he is at work—you do you. And also, you be sure to set some ground rules with your partner about what’s in-bounds and off-limits.
33. Take everything with a grain of salt, remember there’s no perfect parenting, and have fun
We do a lot of research about babies, baby gear, baby food, sleep, so on and so forth. That doesn’t mean we have all the answers. The crazy part about being a dad/parent is there is no single right way to do it, because every baby is so unique. We hope these tips can give you at least some direction, but without a doubt, you will find things that work for you that aren’t on this list.
Whatever you do, remember to have some fun. Laugh it off. Take parenting seriously, but not yourself. And enjoy the journey.
Hi, we’re Fathercraft. We make stuff that makes parenting more awesome. Learn more by heading right over here.